PHILADELPHIA – After a trial lasting five weeks, a Philadelphia jury awarded a $41 million verdict to a Lancaster woman who says she suffered permanent, scarring injuries to her genitalia after the installation of a pelvic mesh implant manufactured by Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Ethicon, Inc.
Plaintiff Suzanne Emmett, 60, sued for damages as a result of being implanted with the Prolift pelvic mesh device – which was manufactured and sold on the market for a seven-year period, spanning from 2005 to 2012.
In June 2012, Johnson & Johnson removed Prolift from the market, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ordered more testing of the device be conducted.
Suzanne received the implant in 2007 in order to treat prolapse, a condition where pelvic support muscles lose strength and put painful pressure on the vagina. But for the plaintiff, she alleged that her pain had only just begun after she received the device.
Suzanne claimed that the mesh had cut through into her vagina and resurfaced more than 12 times, forcing doctors to have her undergo nine separate surgeries to remove pieces of the broken device. She added this process caused her bladder contractions, incontinence and a damaging effect upon her sex life.
That effect was transferred to her husband and co-plaintiff, Michael Emmett, who said the “barbed wire”-like effect of the mesh caused damage to his penis during sexual intercourse with his wife.
The Emmetts’ attorneys claim the mesh implant device was defective, and that defendants committed negligence in both its manufacture and in failing to warn of its dangers.
Among the jury verdict funds are $15 million for compensatory damages, $1 million for a loss of consortium claim to Michael Emmett and $25 million for punitive damages.
A spokesperson for Ethicon, Inc. stated the company will appeal the verdict award, and that the pelvic mesh devices were in fact designed correctly and any risks were warned of appropriately.
“Ethicon intends to appeal this verdict as we believe it contradicts the evidence that the products were properly designed and that the company appropriately informed surgeons of known risks,” Mindy Tinsley said.
Tinsley added that pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence are “serious and debilitating conditions” with “limited treatment options.”
“Scientists from around the world who have conducted and reviewed independent research on pelvic mesh agree it is an important treatment option for some women. All surgeries to treat these conditions have risks. While we empathize with those who have experienced complications, many women with pelvic mesh see an improvement in their day to day lives. Ethicon stands by, and will continue to defend, our pelvic mesh products in litigation,” Tinsley stated.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 130701495
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org